Most bird species nest during the spring and summer seasons. Concerned citizens may find baby birds out of the nest and wonder what to do. Instinctually, most people want to help but adopting the baby bird. This can do more harm than good in some situations. Read the following tips to ensure the baby bird gets the best possible care.
First, determine if the bird is injured. If it is bleeding or has been attacked or shows other signs of trauma or illness, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for more assistance.
If the bird does not seem to be injured or sick, read through the following tips to either leave the baby bird alone, or to provide care.
If you find a naked or down-covered baby bird without feathers (nestling), it should be returned to the nest. Birds have a poor sense of smell and the parents will not reject the baby if you touch it. Leave it alone in the nest, as the parents may not return if a human is nearby.
If you cannot find the nest, you can make a substitute. A substitute nest could be a small basket or berry container lined with soft material, like tissue. Tie it to a tree, place the nestling in the nest, and leave it alone. Watch from a distance. Most likely, the parents are aware of your presence and may wait a few hours before approaching the nestling.
A baby bird with fully formed feathers that is out of the nest (fledgling) should be left alone. Many species (including robins, scrub jays, crows and owls) spend a few days on the ground. It is common behavior for fledglings to hop around on the ground as they learn to fly. Their parents continue to feed them during this critical phase of development, and they learn skills to survive. Please leave fledglings be and help keep them safe from pets and interference with humans.
You may move the bird to a nearby bush to protect and hide it from potential predators if the area is not safe. However, you want to make sure you are not separating the young from their parents even more.
- Try to keep pets indoors.
- Participate in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch, a citizen science project gathering information about North America’s nesting birds.
Keep in mind that in most states, it’s against the law to keep wild animals if you don’t have permits. Raising wild birds in captivity is always a last resort.
Here is a helpful guide from Bird and Moon:
Another good decision map: http://www.nwrawildlife.org/sites/default/files/FoundBird.pdf